How Not to Twitter: Three Social Media Disasters to Avoid

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Using social media for your company’s marketing, you’ve probably had one of those “oops” moments. Your heart races. You scramble to unplug your Internet connection or turn off Wi-Fi before the status updates or the email sends… but you’re too late. It’s. The. Worst.

A typo or a broken link isn’t going to kill your reputation. But stumble at the level that some of these brands have and it’ll bring a hailstorm of criticism. In the past two years, well-established brands like KitchenAid, Red Bull, and Chrysler have had remarkable social media mishaps. Here are a few lessons you can learn from their missteps.

Chrysler – Tweet in the Fast Lane

Last year, an employee working for social media agency New Media Strategies accidentally tweeted this gem on Chrysler’s official Twitter account, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f#*!ing drive.”

This was especially ironic because Chrysler was running an ad campaign that involved touting its connections to Detroit. New Media Strategies quickly deleted the tweet. They also deleted their relationship with the agency, opting not to renew their contract when it came up. The employee who tweeted the now infamous update was also fired.

If you’re a social media manager, consider the benefits of your tweet. Could your snarky comment cost you your job if it’s sent from the wrong account or if your boss sees it? What’s the point of sending it? That doesn’t mean you have to lose your personality, but is getting a couple retweets or laughs worth losing your job?

Lesson Learned:

Use different management tools or apps to update company, client and personal social media accounts from the same devices. For example, use Hootsuite for personal and Sproutsocial for your job.

United Airlines – Country Music Smackdown

Back in 2008, professional musician Dave Carroll boarded a United Airlines plane and noticed airline staff handling his luggage rather roughly. When he landed, he found his $3,500 guitar was destroyed.

Carroll spent the next year fighting with United Airlines, saying they should reimburse him for his prized guitar. He wasn’t satisfied with customer service’s lack of response, so he switched tactics and uploaded a YouTube music video called “United Breaks Guitars.” The video went viral, giving voice to a lot of anti-United Airlines sentiment which allegedly affected the company’s stock value. It was only after all of this that United Airlines apologized to Carroll and donated $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute per his request.

Lesson Learned:

Don’t let customer service issues explode onto the Internet if you can help it. In retrospect, United could have reimbursed Carroll for the guitar (What’s $3,500 to United after all?) and Carroll may well have recorded a testimonial country song that became the best damn viral video ever created about United’s brand. That kind of buzz is priceless.

CelebBoutique – Newsjack Gone Bad

As seen in this presidential election, some of the most viral Internet memes come from world events. When Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made his “Big Bird” comment during the first debate in 2012, we were bombarded with photoshopped images and political ads inspired by Romney and the yellow, eight-foot puppet.

Sesame Street got in on the action with a clever video but there have also been ill-advised attempts at newsjacking, which marketer David Meerman Scott (he wrote the book on newsjacking) defines as “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”

Check out what CelebBoutique, an online fashion firm that allows customers to style themselves after their favorite celebrities, tweeted in the aftermath of the tragic, deadly shooting at a Colorado premiere of the newest Batman film this summer.

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CelebBoutique went on to delete the tweet and responded with a series of apologetic tweets, but the damage had been done. CelebBoutique pointed to their location in the UK as the reason they knew nothing about the movie theater shooting as the cause of the trending hashtag. But simply knowing what the conversation was about before they contributed to it would have saved them grief later on. Fashion designer Kenneth Cole had a similar misstep when he tried to newsjack political uprising in Egypt to hype his spring line last year.

Lesson Learned:

Tread carefully when newsjacking and don’t make light of others’ suffering. This is one of the biggest social media gaffes. A good approach is to consider how your brand can add value to to the conversation. For example, are there evergreen lessons or parallels to your industry from a news item that you can blog about, or better yet, can your brand offer assistance and support?

Wondering about social media marketing? We love talking about it. Contact Raka today.










By: Brian DeKoning

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